Purchasing a Wood Burning Stove


Purchasing a Wood Burning Stove

tips for beginners from a beginner

When we first moved to the home on our homestead we were on the fence about purchasing a wood stove.

On the one hand we liked the idea of being able to heat with wood, and the warm atmosphere a fireplace provided.

On the other hand, wood stoves are expensive.  They take up space, space that for us at least, is tight already.  I was also, believe it or not, afraid of them.  I could see us burning down the house the first time we used it.

After discussing the situation back and forth for thirteen months, looking at the situation from every angle, we finally decided to take the plunge.  Our new wood burning stove was installed last week.  

The process while rewarding, was initially intimidating.  We knew nothing about selecting, installing, or using a wood stove. 

If you are in the same boat, or expect to find yourself there soon, here are a few things that we learned through the process that might help you along.

analyze your situation wood burning stove

Do you need a wood stove?  We have a well insulated home and the first year we lived here, we heated it very efficiently with propane. We didn’t really see a need.


Then we experienced a propane shortage nearly doubling the cost per gallon and our bills were higher than we had ever anticipated.

We also had two major ice storms threatening power outages.  One can have a propane furnace, but if the starter is electric, what good will it do you?

The cost of propane and the need for a reliable heat source were the two major factors that led us to the decision of buying a stove. 

What does your situation look like?  Perhaps you are in a location where you don’t have harsh winters and power outages due to ice storms are unlikely to happen.  Perhaps your home is heated efficiently and economically with electricity.

Before taking a look at stoves, look at your current situation and ask yourself how often you would actually use one.

Decide Where to ShopWe found that one could, believe it or not,  order online and have one delivered.  Places such as Lehman’s offer such products and services.  Our concern there was our lack of know~how and experience with wood stoves.  We didn’t really know what we needed or how it should be installed.

I could see us ordering a very expensive, (and heavy) cast iron stove; only to have it delivered and discover we had ordered the wrong thing.

We decided instead to locate a local dealer and go shopping.  While there are many brands on the market such as Napoleon, Jotul, and Vermont Castings; we decided to choose a dealer with good customer service and go from there.

When the first call to the Vermont Castings dealer resulted in many long silent pauses, and “…….huh. I don’t knows…” in response to our questions over the phone, we decided to go with the more informative store that carried the Napoleon stove.  They were also getting ready to launch a winter sale.

don't be afraid to ask questions wood burning stove

Having been through the process of building our home, I knew how these things tended to go.  Contractors and, often times, sales clerks don’t think to break down what is for them, every day language into simple terms a housewife can understand.  I had a lot of concerns about bringing a large, expensive firebox into my home and cutting a hole in the ceiling.  I wanted to know:

Where should we place it?

We learned that it did not need to go against an outside wall as we had originally thought.  It could go within the house but the closer it was to the downward slope of the roof, the less extra pipe would be required for the chimney and therefore, less expense at installation.

Can it go directly on the cement floor?

We have cement flooring throughout our home (come back Saturday for the pros and cons of cement The simple hearth of the small farm is the center of our universe. flooring) and I was wondering if we’d need a pad like the ones I had seen in most of the pictures of wood stoves.  I learned that the pad was only necessary if the flooring underneath was of a combustible material such as wood or carpet.  Unless we wanted one for aesthetic reasons, and I didn’t, we were good.

Do we need something installed to protect the wall behind it?

This was another concern.  We have standard sheetrock walls in our home.  Unless it was absolutely necessary, I really didn’t want to go to the expense of tiling my walls behind the stove.  We were told that as long as the stove was the proper distance from the walls, no further protection was necessary.

Are you really going to cut a hole through the ceiling for the stove pipe?

This sounds silly, but yes, I was worried about having a hole put in my ceiling.  There obviously is no other way of getting the pipe from the stove to the outside for proper ventilation.  The pipe is however, properly insulated, and the insulation in our attic is not combustible, so apart from having a hole in my perfect green roof, there was no concern about fire.

Who do we get to install it?

While stoves do come with installation instructions, there are contractors who will install your stove for you.  Ours was recommended by the dealer, and for a separate fee, installed our stove.  He did run a tight schedule and getting on his agenda required a four week wait.  It was worth it to us.  We made the appointment, he picked up the stove, additional materials, and was able to work out some details that didn’t quite go according to plan.  Which brings me to my next point:

Be flexibleI had in my mind where I wanted the stove to go.  I had mentally rearranged the room to accommodate it.  When the installer arrived, he took one look at my Plan A and shook his head.  I unknowingly had  the stove positioned in such a fashion that it would be directly under an air duct, leaving no space for the cap at the top. 

We had to resort to a Plan B which was another room altogether. 

Once I managed my disappointment (and had mentally rearranged the furniture in that room), we learned that the dealer had not sent the proper materials.  They included a roof kit with the stove just assuming that we had a shingle roof.  We told them we lived in a metal sided home with a metal roof, but somehow this “minor” detail didn’t stick.  This required an additional trip into town by the installer, dragging the installation out for several hours and costing us additional $$ we didn’t expect.  There was nothing that could be done about it ~ it was just one of those things. 

Enjoy itWhat did we end up getting? 

An enamel coated cast iron wood burning stove by Napoleon.

The top flips up to allow for cooking should the need arise.  This past weekend the temps dropped significantly, and we were even treated to a major ice storm.  This gave us the opportunity to spend many long hours in front of the fire enjoying our new toy.  We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of heat it gave off and managed to get through the early spring storm without the furnace.


Do you have a wood burning stove? 

What tips would you give to someone looking to purchase one?


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Purchasing a Wood Burning Stove — 16 Comments

  1. I love it! So, which room did it end up in? I would love a stove in our basement someday…mostly the idea of it and the option for winter power outages. But we also have a wood burning fireplace – it probably doesn’t heat as much as a stove would but we absolutely love the ambiance and use it weekly.

    • My first choice was in the “keeping room”; a large common area when you first walk in the door. It would have been more centrally located there and handier to the kitchen. It is in the living room. It works ~ today it is about 20 degrees outside and we have the furnace off. The thermostat reads about 68. I’ve seen what you guys are doing to your fireplace! So cool!

  2. We have a wood burning fireplace but at this time it needs a new chimney. I would love to replace it with a big wood stove that I can cook on. Since we are total electric it would be a great way to cook and heat the house when we have power failures.

  3. I grew up with a wood stove and really loved it except for the incessant cleaning and stoking it required. :-) But what a gift it was during power outages and the worst winter weather imaginable. We don’t need one in Australia – a gas bottle heater does the trick nicely on frosty mornings. :-)

  4. The house we bought has a stove in the basement. We have concrete floors down there and the stove is on wood blocks. We’ve used it twice and didn’t have the vent part hooked up right so now that we’ve figured out what we did wrong we need to give it another run and see how we like it.

  5. we live in a single wide trailor and have a wood stove and love it we have done had it for fifteen years and have save us a bundle of money on heat and.se do not fear a power outage in the winter couse are toasty warm.you did the right thing my wife loves the heat that comes from .

    • My husband was saying something similar, that he felt the heat from the wood stove was different. It had a heavier warmth than our propane heater. We’ve been enjoying it today! 20 degrees outside.

  6. Thanks, great post. I am hoping to find some good sales this spring and get a wood stove for our new double wide. We have all the wood we could ever hope to burn on our property.

    • I hope you find one! We’ve really enjoyed it and have been able to keep pretty warm without the use of propane. If you have free wood that would be awesome!

  7. I grew up with a wood stove and every place I have ever lived had on except where we are now. I’ve been in the house for 15 years. At the time I thought how convenient to not have to deal with the dirty ole wood stove. But it didn’t take many a winter before I missed it terribly. It is our goal to get one. Hopefully where we are now, but if not in this home most definitely when will build the new house at the land.

    • It is a chore to chop and haul wood but my husband, at least at this point really enjoys it. :)

  8. In love wood heat. We have one in the basement that heats the house. It is actually a wood burning furnace, but we also have a wood burning stove in our family room. I have to be honest, by the end of winter we get tired of hauling wood (right now) but we save a lot of money burning wood. Especially this year with LP prices.

  9. Really nice post!

    We’ve had wood heat for so many years that I don’t really know another way to lived :-)

    I have two suggestions.
    The first suggestion would be to start with a less expensive stove or find a good used stove.
    Vermont Casting is the top of the line and not budget friendly for young families.

    The second suggestion is to maybe consider a cook stove first.
    With a cook stove you get heat, hot food, and hot water if you like. You save on gas, propane or electricity for cooking during the cold weather months. Cooking fuel costs can really add up if you live in a cold climate. Depending upon the layout of your home ( open plan works good for this) a good cook stove would be my choice if I was starting out as a young homesteader again.

    For home heating, Hitzer makes a very good entry level wood/coal burner. It’s what I have in my living room and it’s what many of the local Amish here in Pennsylvania use.
    It’s very quick to start and is a nice design.
    That said, Hitzer can be a dirty stove (in terms of fly ash) and I would not recommend it for a house with lots of carpeting… but now that I think about it, I wouldn’t recommend a wood or coal burner for any house with wall to wall carpeting. If your going to heat with wood or coal ditch the carpeting.

    I did write about the economics and the personal life style trade offs awhile back.